One team walked off the soccer pitch Friday evening at Skyview High School with their heads held high knowing they had clinched a spot at the Northern Lights Conference soccer tournament next weekend.
The other? They dejectedly left with only one goal in mind. Win Saturday’s final regular season match, the final one in school history.
The Nikiski boys got the better of Skyview in a 1-0 game that resulted in the Bulldogs clinching the fourth seed in the Northern Lights Conference southern division standings.
Nikiski bumped its record up to 2-2-1 in the NLC Southern Division (5-5-1 overall). The Skyview boys are 1-3 in the NLC Southern Division, and 2-8 overall with one game to go.
“I think it’s great,” said Nikiski coach Jim Coburn, “We have a lot of sophomores and freshman, a lot of kids on the team and only three seniors, and any time we make it to regions with a school of our size, it’s awesome.”
Skyview coach Jake Eveland, a former Nikiski assistant and student under Coburn, maintained a light atmosphere on the sidelines with jokes and jabs against the Bulldogs coaching crew during the game, but once the final minutes slipped away, reality set in.
“It was pretty rough,” Eveland said. “These kids dug deep, and they’re pretty upset right now. Their one goal was to make it to regions, and it’s unfortunate that didn’t happen.
“But I told them that in the long run, it’s about being a good person.”
After a gritty tussle all game long that saw both sides produce opportunities on goal, Nikiski finally struck gold in the 61st minute when Christian Riddall received a ball that snuck through a pair of Skyview defenders. Riddall battled with Skyview’s Austin Craig in a race to the net, where he unleashed a strike that got by goalie Bailey Jones.
“Our goalie stepped up today and had a great game,” Coburn said.
Sullivan Jackson manned the net for Nikiski and produced the shutout with eight saves, unofficially.
“I felt like since we did have possession, we were gonna be all right, but when you let them slip under your feet and get opportunities at a goal, they are dangerous,” Coburn said.
Preceding the Nikiski goal, Skyview saw a number of close shots on goal, including in the 55th minute when Mauro Lotito found some space in the right corner and sent a shot across the goalie box that ricocheted off a few players before a Nikiski defender sent it away.
“It was one of those things that seemed like no one wanted to pull the trigger, or couldn’t,” Eveland said. “That’s just the sport of soccer, and I love it.”
After holding a 6-3 shots-on-goal advantage in the first half, Nikiski upped the pace with nine strikes on net in the second half, and took four corner kicks to Skyview’s none in the second frame.
“For our ragtag group, I’m proud because they kept it close all the way down to the wire,” Eveland said.
As the final home game for the Skyview soccer teams, the seniors were celebrated. The seniors on the team are Khelbie Miller, Logan Hinz, Carlos Casars and Chad Harley.
Nikiski girls 2, Skyview 0
The Nikiski girls team broke through for their first victory of the season with a shutout over Skyview on Friday.
“It feels great, I think the girls were ready to put some goals in the back of the net,” said Nikiski coach Mandy Adair. “Just to have a game where they could do that, it’s a big confidence boost for them going into regions, knowing they’re capable of doing that.”
The win clinched a spot in next weekend’s Northern Lights Conference tournament, as Nikiski is 1-7-2 (1-2-2 in the Southern division) and holds down the fourth seed. The Skyview girls are 1-9 overall (1-3 Southern Division).
Opting to put Brianna Vollertson in goal, coach Adair moved Rachel Thompson up to the midfield, and the move paid off with Thompson scoring both goals.
Less than a minute after a razor-close miss in the dying minutes of the first half, Thompson buried a shot in the 37th minute with help from Nataliyah Davis.
Thompson scored again in the 56th minute with an assist from Chloe Braun, finding open space in front of the goal again and firing another straight shot to eke out a two-goal lead for Nikiski.
“It takes the while to get the team building going, to learn each other,” Adair said. “A lot of these girls haven’t played soccer before, so getting that game experience under their belts the more they can build on their skills.”
In the second half, Nikiski put eight shots on Skyview goalie Mandee Lawson, while the Panthers notched only one clear shot on Vollertson.
“We’re so dependant on Taylor (Wilson) and Ciarra (Mahan) and their experience that they wander around a lot and don’t have people in position in the midfield,” said Skyview coach Dave Carpenter. “They weren’t winning 50-50 balls, and were more content to let it bounce and play it off the rebound.”
The seniors on the team are Carissa Lingle and Madison White. Carpenter said the last game on the Skyview field made him pause on the sideline and realize what the game meant to him.
“I gotta admit for me, I was sitting over here thinking that it’s kind of interesting, this is the last one for me,” he said. “After all the years I was thinking about it. When you’re in the thick of things, it’s stressful, it can be tough, but this is a great group of kids and it’s been nice.”
Grace girls 2, Nikiski 0
The host Bulldogs kept the score tied until 20 minutes remained.
“Everything is starting to click,” Adair said after falling to 1-8-2 overall. “Grace is a very quality team. They have a lot of players that play more than just the high school season, if not year-round. For us to stay even with them and have chances on their net was a good step.”
Seniors Emily Lynch and Katie Costello were honored at the game.
“They put a lot of work into the program,” Adair said. “They’ve been there with a go-get-it-type of attitude. They push each other, and they push the team to improve.”
Adair added that Laura Hufford was strong on defense, while Chloe Braun hustled in the midfield.
The result of the boys game was not available as the Clarion went to press.
Homer girls 9, Skyview 0
The host Mariners finished 2-1-2 in the Southern Division and 4-3-2 overall with a victory over the Panthers.
Skyview finishes its season at 1-10 and 1-4.
Homer boys 8, Skyview 0
The host Mariners finished 10-1 and 5-0 in the Southern Division with a victory over the Panthers on Saturday.
Skyview finishes 1-4 and 2-9.
Drew Brown had a hat trick and an assist, while Mario Glosser had two goals and an assist.
Max Mangue and John Walsworth added tallies, while the final goal was a Skyview own goal.
Flynn Bloom, Kaec Brinster and Filip Reutov added assist for Homer.
Homer girls 5, Seward 0
The host Mariners moved to 1-1-2 in the Southern Division and 3-3-2 overall on Friday by topping the Seahawks, who finish 0-4-1 in the south.
Maggie Koplin, Mady Gerard, Sam Draves, Megan Pitzman and Sofia Ramirez-Clark found the back of the net for Homer.
Rachael Doan and Draves shared the shutout in net.
“I thought we probably had the best scoring opportunities we’ve had all season,” Homer coach Mickey Todd said. “We played strong defense, got the shutout, and everybody got to play off the bench.”
Homer boys 8, Seward 0
The host Mariners improved to 9-1-0 overall and 4-0 in the Southern Division with the Friday victory.
Seward brought 10 players, but that is still enough for a game. Homer pulled most of its varsity players off the field in the ninth minute, and later went down to 10 players.